The De Sotto Lesson.

Bernardo’s PowerPoint History of UP Los Baños

Also published by the American Chronicle in a slightly different version.
Copyright 2007 September 15 by Frank A Hilario


He reminds Filipinos – me first – that the Americans came to the Philippines with their colonial curriculum. He deserves a University of the Philippines Los Baños Alumni Association (UPLBAA) Presidential Award for teaching us history. Fernando A Bernardo is The Gray Historian of UP Los Baños, having succeeded in capturing between 4 covers the UP Los Baños Story from the early 20th century to the early 21st while tackling areas as gray as his head, writing in long hand. There had been previous attempts to write such history, but only he has turned dream to reality. Here come the UPLB Alumni Fellowship Night (October 9), UPLB Loyalty Day (October 10). Twin books, twin celebrations – no I don’t drink, yes I’ll drink to that!

I say ‘FA Bernardo’ to (artfully) separate him from wife (Emiliana) ‘EN Bernardo’ who is (almost) equally known, who helped him tremendously in this gargantuan labor of love – she helped in the repetitious line-by-line editing. Didn’t someone say behind the success of a man is a woman? The historian has written of 100 years of UP Los Baños in his unique style I call PowerPoint history. I invented the term as a double entendre, of which I’m fond constructing. The first and obvious meaning is that it refers to Microsoft PowerPoint, the software that everybody uses to make presentations during seminars, lectures, conferences, workshops, times when occasion or presentor demands – I don’t, I don’t make presentations; I just present myself. The second meaning is that our historian has written history in the manner of PowerPoint, which is grouping and presenting important points with Bullets and Numbering. Sometimes it helps.

There is a third meaning I want to point out in my use of the Microsoft-invented term PowerPoint: FA Bernardo’s twin books are written in the manner of Milestones (deserving Bullets) and their Mix of Meanings and Materials (deserving Numbers). This is not your usual history, but then again, the history of UP Los Baños is highly unusual – it’s American. You don’t agree with Bernardo’s view of UPLB history? Just look for power in his own storytelling.

If I heard him right, our historian started with the idea of writing the history of the University as consisting of 100 milestones, which are, literally, landmarks (as in kilometer posts), and figuratively, important events in the story of a person, nation, or knowledge itself (I’m borrowing from American Heritage Dictionary). 100 milestones they were going to be. Or 101, to indicate that there were really more than 100. As he checked and revised the manuscript (checked again, revised again), he noted that there were probably 200 milestones, or even more. So he dropped ‘milestones’ from the titles. It had become difficult to count them. I’ll add to the count and say his twin books are twin milestones in UPLB history.

Yes, they are twin books. I refer to the one I helped edit as the text book (UPLB: A Century Of Challenges And Achievements) as distinguished (no pun intended) from the coffee-table book (Centennial Panorama: A Pictorial History Of UPLB), the first being mostly text, the second being mostly photographs. The text book is 249 pages text (with chapter breaker photographs); the coffee-table version is 314 pages, both big-sized tomes.

UPLBAA, Publisher. They make one package: pre-Loyalty Day, you pay P2K for the coffee-table book and get the text book as bonus. (Suppose you want only the text book? You pay P2K and get the coffee-table book as extra! I mean, the text book is not for sale separate from the coffee-table version.) Please send check to UPLBAA.

The question you may be asking is: Why should I pay P2K at all for Bernardo’s twin books? Good question! Now, let me answer it this way, by way of Bullets & Numbering:

#1: You will be learning from the past merely looking at the pictures.
#2: You will be looking at the past while learning from the story.

It doesn’t come any better than that! Want to prove me wrong? You have to read the books; to review both, I had to.

#1: Centennial Panorama –
Learning from the past, looking at the pictures.

The coffee-table book is UP Los Baños history in images, most of which you have not seen, even if you happen to be older than the first College gate (1933). FA Bernardo collected his materials and images over the course of a year from many and diverse sources here and there. Anyone can collect photographs, even old photographs, but the images do not tell a story by themselves, that which his book does. The images add authenticity and credibility to the story being told, no matter that only a few words are used. Not only that, they remind us of our past, whether we are UPLB alumni or not, the bygone days that are now part of us all, the events that shaped the alma mater if not the alumni, the challenges and considerations that confronted individuals and institutions, the trials they underwent and the triumphs they experienced. If you did not live that history, here is your chance to relish it a little.

The photographs are legion, such as of the first College gate, Charles Fuller Baker, Edwin Bingham Copeland (first Dean), ‘farm pest monitoring sites’ from an international project, aerial view of the campus in those early years. My favorite image is that of an Ilocana girl smoking a big cigar, a status symbol of those early years of the 20th century.

A coffee-table book is usually a collection of stunning photographs, pages designed for maximum impact of color and composition. Not this, since no one was commissioned to take photographs while 100 years rolled by. Yet, some photographs are dramatic, being so historical, as that ethanol road test – yes, College of Agriculture engineers ran a 1929 De Sotto de Luxe sedan on 10% ethanol for 50,000 km about 70 years ago! We should have learned the De Sotto lesson decades before Brazil thought of sugarcane ethanol, before Al Gore came up with his Inconvenient Truth.

Why should you be interested in a new book of photographs that tell old stories? If you or any of your loved ones has been part of UP Los Baños in its 100-year history, you may find more meaning in your past and present if you knew this University’s past; you may even be able to get a glimpse of an exciting future.

#2: A Century of Challenges & Achievements –
Looking at the past, learning from the story.

Naturally, the text book contains much more of the story in words. I know because, as the historian puts it by way of acknowledgment, I final-edited the manuscript, and in fact desktop-published it myself – in the language of classical publishing, I did all the designing of the text chapters: crafting the chapter opening pages, typesetting (fonts, formatting font sizes and styles of characters, lines and paragraphs), layouting pages (setting margins, number of lines on a page, running heads), copy editing (correcting grammar & spelling, checking for errors in fact or meaning), proofreading & copyreading, cutting & pasting, inserting & dragging images (photographs, illustrations, graphs), blueprinting (printouting), correcting, repositioning. The only thing I didn’t do was the cover, the design of which came from the coffee-table book artist, as directed by FA Bernardo of course. (Which software did I use? How did I insert images & boxes, dragging them place to place even while adding or subtracting much text? Secret! In any case, book publishing has become so much easier because of the personal computer and laser printer, and they’re not that expensive either, or I couldn’t afford an Intel Core 2 Duo PC with a Xerox Phaser 3116 – I did it at home.)

No, FA’s history does not tell all stories. He would have needed another year to gather materials on his desk, gather thoughts in his head, gather drafts into 2, even 3 books? Like, he does not mention the technology of publishing changing over the years within UP Los Baños itself, from typewriter to typesetter to desktop publisher. Among other things, I would have liked him to mention names of alumnae, like Gelia Castillo who became the first celebrated UPLB international expert, like Lizbeth de Padua who became Bb Pilipinas Universe. Well, no book is perfect.

I recommend you check out a fascinating book feature that is not found in its coffee-table twin: A Centenary Timeline for UPLB – I wrote it myself. Here’s an excerpt:


1821: February 26, a royal decree authorizes the Real Sociedad Economia to establish a professorship of agriculture in Manila. An offer to pay a professor’s salary of P250 a year is made, but there is no taker.

1858: September 13, Governor-General Fernando De Norzagaray y Escudero establishes a Botanic Garden and a School of Agriculture at Calle Arroceros, Manila. The school does not live long.

1889: July 2, the Escuela Agricola opens its doors in Manila by virtue of a Royal Decree issued on November 29, 1887. After one commencement exercise, the school closes forever.

1889: Up to 1902, the Filipino-American War is more violent and lasts longer than the Filipino Revolution against Spain (1896-1898), with more human lives lost and more destruction of agriculture. Up to 90 percent of the carabao stock is decimated.

You get a rapid glimpse of history even from that excerpt – first, the Spanish imperialists, then the American colonizers. Don’t you feel the pulse of those centuries past?

Bernardo’s text book of UPLB history is full of names, numbers, incidents and milestones that will prove too much if you read more than 2 chapters at a time. Therefore, I suggest that you do not read chapter by chapter but browse the chapters, pick up what interests you, and read here and there. Then you will appreciate that the book, while not necessarily visually attractive as it is mostly rivers of text, makes you think what might have been and what might be next. All good history books should be like that.

One of the major events in UPLB history was the UP-Cornell Graduate Education Program, which was aimed at strengthening UPCA as a graduate school as well as train Filipinos for leadership in agricultural research and educational development. Outstanding products of this program include Emil Javier, Percy Sajise, Pids Rosario, Mario Labadan, Edelwina Legaspi, Teroy Lasap Jr. (No, not me; I didn’t go to graduate school. Yes, Percy, Pids, Teroy were my classmates.)

If you’re interested in names of individuals and institutions, try the Index I prepared. Dates as well as accompanying names are emphasized in the Timeline; names and pieces of relevant information connected to each one are emphasized in the Index. Thus, Umali, Dioscoro L may be seen at least 16 times (as in pages 56, 87, 98, 105, 118, 185), while quite a number show only once, such as Sacay, Orlando (103), student activism (62), thesis as required for graduation (32), University Publications Office (136).

Some of the stories are startling, such as that one that tells of how UP Los Baños missed the historical chance in those Martial Law years of becoming independent of the UP System. And it is shocking to learn that there was a year when UP’s budget was cut 14%, whereupon the UP President unilaterally declared UPLB budget be cut 36%. ‘Murder!’ he wrote. Actually, ‘Unfair!’ he wrote. Right.

One of the main laments of our historian has to do with the UP Open University (in Los Baños): it has only a few hundred students while other Open Universities in Asia have thousands (Malaysia 16K, South Korea 210K, Thailand 550K, India 800K). He blames it on the strict admission requirements of UPOU, that is to say, it is not really an Open University. Right.

The biggest challenge to UPLB today, our historian says, is ‘the great need to restore or revive the Los Baños Spirit’ which he defines as ‘the spirit of teamwork, the enthusiasm to cooperate, the indomitable spirit in the face of adversities, the never dying commitment of graduates of the old UP College of Agriculture and UP College of Forestry.’ UP Los Baños alumni abroad, get that?

So: The history books have been written; FA Bernardo is finished with his 2-book brainchild. But the story of the University of the Philippines Los Baños is not finished. It is beginning its second 100 years, at the end of which, each having been part of its second century one way or another, we all hope to have contributed to changing UP itself from its colonial curriculum, serving the people and not selfish interests, enjoying financial independence and not simply academic freedom – constructive, innovative, brilliant.

Hard-bound, FA Bernardo’s twin books are open doors to the past. We must know our past and know it by heart; if we forget our history, we will be bound to repeat it.

Explore posts in the same categories: ethanol, University of the Philippines, UP Los Baños

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